Alan Wake – PC Review

Alan Wake, originally an Xbox 360 exclusive is back with a PC release. This release is for sure the most complete version of the game. The new PC release contains the core game and all DLC add-ons. Considering the fact that the Alan Wake DLC actually provided more insight into the games main story its safe to say that the PC release is the definitive version.

The added graphical detail allowed via this new PC release does add much to the experience. The visual upgrade in lighting and texture detail adds to the game which revolves around the survival horror theme. The atmosphere and feeling of immersion in the story is boosted a bit by the lighting and effects that can be head and shoulders above the Xbox 360 visual experience provided you have a PC that can tun it on high settings. The good news is that the game is not very demanding on the PC hardware requirements front so players can rejoice. The forest is more lush and creepy with the added visual fidelity.

Alan Wake is a Psychological Action Thriller made by the developers of Max Payne, Remedy. In this Xbox 360 exclusive you assume the role of Alan Wake, a successful writer who escapes to the tranquil town of Bright Falls with his wife Alice after suffering from a serious case of Writers Block. Coming to Bright Falls is a way to try and inspire him to be able to write again.
Soon enough strange things begin to happen, it’s difficult to talk more about the story without any spoilers but Alice goes missing and Alan starts to find manuscript pages from a book he doesn’t even remember writing.

The game is set up episodically, like a TV show. Each episode ends on some sort of a cliffhanger and then the next episode will show a recap of what happened previously. At 6 episodes there may be people who complain that the game is too short but I can assure you, each episode can take a few hours to finish depending on whether you run straight through it or take your time to find all the collectibles. I decided to play the game one episode per night over the course of 6 consecutive nights. This way I was able to play the game as I would watch a TV show and that really helped to immerse myself into the world, as at the end of each episode I couldn’t wait for the next night to play it again.

Certain parts of game take place during the day light, this is where you have some freedom to explore the town of Bright Falls, get to know the locals and gather information about Alice’s disappearance. As soon as night falls though Alan must fight for his own survival and sanity. As he battles his way through the forested areas he must overcome the shadowy figures of the ‘Taken’, these are the townfolk who have become corrupted by the darkness. Then it becomes a battle between the light and dark, as the only place of safety Alan is able to use are generators that cast pools of light situated around different areas of the map. Standing within this light pool will stop any enemy being able to deal damage.
For places without generators Alan comes equipped with a flashlight and a small arsenal of firearms including Pistols and Shotguns which can be found placed around the game world, bullets and batteries also need to be collected in order to have any sort of a fighting chance.

The combat mechanics really stood out for me, I found them interesting, fun and original. The ‘Taken’ use the darkness as a shield of armour of sorts. Blindly firing bullets will not deal any sort of damage. Alan can instead shine his flashlight either at a full beam or standard beam towards them that will begin to deplete this shield. When the shield is gone you are free to use the fire arms at your disposal to finish them off for good.

Be warned, this is by no means an always easy task. At times you will be suddenly surrounded by the ‘Taken’ only to realise you are low on bullets and batteries so your only chance is to run and find the nearest stash of items, the ‘Taken’ will follow you.
This encourages a nice strategic element towards the combat as you need to learn to conserve precious items and only use them when it’s the most appropriate.

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My favourite weapon to use was the flare-gun. It never got old to have a group of ‘Taken’ advancing towards you, only for you to shoot right down the middle and kill them all in one with a blinding flash of red light surrounding the area. The sweeping camera during these kind of action pieces made it look very cool and epic.

Alan Wake was first conceived as an open world game. During the very very long and often delayed development process this was actually decided against and some what taken out of the game. I say some what because the areas you actually traverse through are quite open and it doesn’t always feel like you are on a linear path, there are different places to go to find the collectibles but the game will always push you in one direction to advance the story. Stray too far off the beaten path and a fog will descend down and you will swiftly become surrounded by the ‘Taken’.

Bright Falls it’s self looks fantastic. A lot was made upon the games release that it is not actually HD, and running below the 720p standard like Red Dead Redemption on the PS3, but looking at this game you will not notice it. Character Models are nice and the environments are gorgeous. Looking at the different vistas whether during the day or night or nothing short of jaw dropping. Draw distances are terrific, being able to see the mountains and water running for miles in front of you really adds to the worlds realism and you believe you really are in this world.
Voice acting can be some what hit or miss, the main characters sound great, apart from the odd very cheesy dialogue, NPC’s you find around the town sound quite dreadful but not enough to make you want to switch the game off.

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There are many collectibles throughout the world. Finding the Manuscript pages scattered around will give you a more detailed insight into the story and characters, so there is a big incentive in finding them.
There are Televisions to be found where you can watch a very creepy show called ‘Night Springs’
It sort of reminded me of a twilight zone kind of show and are deeply unsettling.
Radio shows again can be found which again all add some more detail to the world and listening to them is recommended if you really want to immerse yourself into this world.
After finishing the game of normal there is an incentive to play through again in ‘Nightmare’ mode, this mode allows you to find additional pages of the manuscript, these are exclusive to this mode so if you want to know everything there is to know then I recommend playing on this setting.

So a question you may be wanting an answer to is whether the game is scary or not. Well that all depends of what you class as scary. If you looking for quick frights that make you jump then no this isn’t it. However if like me it’s the fear of the darkness and not knowing what is out there that frightens you, then yes, this game is spine chilling. It tapped into all my fears I had as a kid about being afraid of the dark and the monsters that lurk there and that really sent a shiver down my spine. That is what I believe is one of Alan Wake’s greatest strengths, it taps into that fear of the unknown that we all have. “did I just see something lurking in the shadows?”, “is this all in my head?”. it gets at you in those sort of ways and that’s what makes it, in my opinion, better than games like Dead Space and Fear, and even the recent Resident Evils, because they are all about quick scares, Alan Wake stays true to what it is and makes it’s scares ‘Psychological’.

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So my verdict? Unfortunately as I said at the beginning of this review it is too difficult to talk too much about the story without spoiling it, so what I gave you may sound quite vague, but rest assured I thoroughly enjoyed it. It kept me riveted and on the edge of my seat all the way through, and by the end I still wanted more. Which the developers have now given us by way of downloadable episodes, the first of which “The Signal” is out now to download, or free if you buy your copy of Alan Wake brand new.

The game is not perfect, camera issues arise during combat sequences and the storyline can become some what confusing unless you fully engage with it. There is also the issue of environments not being very varied which can easily put some people off if they presume all they will be doing is walking around the woods in the dark for 6 straight episodes. This is not the case at all. The environments do switch up and with so many other parts of this game, you only get out of it what you put into it. The incentives are laid out for you, it’s your choice to take them.
Again voice acting can be some what hit and miss and some characters are just straight up annoying but these minor issues In an otherwise fantastic game, it’s one of the best games I have played this generation and one of the best games ever in that kind of genre. It may not be as long as some may have hoped for but in my opinion it fits with what seems to have become the standard length for single player games these days. I hope to see a sequel in the near future. As an Xbox 360 owner there is not many exclusive games on the horizon so you wouldn’t be doing yourself an injustice to pick this one up, if not it is definitely worth a rental.

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